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Sundial: Sandra Cisneros on living 'sin vergüenza', but not being a 'sinvergüenza'

Outdoor portrait photo session with author and poet Sandra Cisneros in and around the town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico..
Outdoor portrait photo session with author and poet Sandra Cisneros in and around the town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico..

The author Sandra Cisneros thinks of books as medicine.

They were her medicine when she was growing up in a Mexican American family. She had six brothers and privacy was hard to come by. She found it in books.

You can feel that quality in her first novel The House on Mango Street.

The coming-of-age story is based on her childhood on the West Side of Chicago in the 1960s.

It was a national bestseller.

It came out nearly 40 years ago and the stories still resonate. It’s easy to pop into any one of the vignettes and find her gentle medicine. The stories are simple. The messages run as deep as you dare to read.

That’s one reason it’s become a classic for children across the country. Especially Latino kids. It’s required reading in schools across South Florida.

Cisneros has written 13 books of poetry, fiction and essays since then. Her latest is titled Woman Without Shame. It’s a poetry collection about aging, desire, spirituality and shame.

Her work has earned her many awards including the PEN/Nabokov Award and a MacArthur Fellowship — and she’s in town to receive another one. This time it's the 2023 Lawrence A. Sanders Award in fiction at Florida International University.

She’ll be in conversation with her friend, the poet Richard Blanco, Thursday night at the Biscayne Bay Campus.

On the April 12 episode of Sundial, she joined us to read some poetry and hide out with us from the rainstorm.

On Sundial’s previous episode, we heard from actor and writer Robby Ramos. He talked to us about his debut play The Walls Have Ears, which is being performed now at the Westchester Cultural Arts Center. The play was inspired by his grandfather, a Cuban dissident who served time at a notorious prison camp.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Stay in touch with us by emailing us at sundial@wlrnnews.org.

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Carlos Frías is the host of WLRN's Sundial. He is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Elisa Baena is an associate producer for Sundial.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.